My Crores vs. Your Millions

India gave the world Zero. So should we not be a bit more assertive in the matter of numbers?

I have grown up with lakhs and crores. And I have not heard that India has officially moved to millions and billions.

2018-06-15 17.29.16_resizedWhy then does my newspaper headline inform me that 55 million Indians are pushed into poverty every year due to health spending? Isn’t it a sad enough fact for me to take in, without having to contend with doing mental callisthenics?

And an Indian research journal in which I hope to publish a paper also says that figures must be in millions and billions, not in good old familiar lakhs and crores.

Well, in the case of the research study, maybe it has been done in collaboration with American researchers? And in the second, maybe it is that the journal hopes for an international audience?

Whatever the reasons, when communicating to Indians, would it not make more sense to use familiar number-names? Is 55 million a lot? Or not so much? What proportion of the population is it? I can’t do these calculations early in the morning.

And writing numbers too! I write and relate to 10,00,000. Not 1,000,000. But will Excel allow me to? NO!

India, we hear has a lot of soft power (as well as software power). Can we not prevail upon companies making programs to have an ‘Indian number variation’, like there are options for UK and US spellings?

And even more important, can we in India—the media, academia et.al., use lakhs and crores? The Americans have proved that a country can get by in the comity of nations without switching to the metric system. Mine is a relatively small ask!

–Meena